City staff and the Niagara Regional Police Services are testing a pilot project over the next five months to determine if the current number of taxis are sufficient for students and other patrons on weekends
On January 8, the Niagara Regional Police Services announced that the city is launching a pilot project to determine if more taxis are needed to service students and other patrons on weekends in downtown St. Catharines.
Mayor Walter Sendzik is supporting the project and believes it will help make the downtown core a more attractive destination for residents and businesses alike.
“Offering additional taxi service during late night and weekends from the heart of our core is another step in improving the overall experience for people coming to our downtown,” said Sendzik.
“This pilot [project] is a great example of how the city is collaborating with Niagara Regional Police Services, local businesses, community groups and others with a vested interest in a revitalized downtown.”
City Council proposed the idea to “address late-night transportation and safety issues downtown” a statement read and was later approved by the Niagara Regional Police Services Board in December.
Sgt. Terry Thomson of the Niagara Regional Police Services’ by-law enforcement and licensing unit is the project lead and will spend the next five months assessing whether the downtown would benefit from an expanded taxi service.
Thomson’s unit is in charge of regulating taxi services in St. Catharines. They will be giving local taxis in St. Catharines temporary licenses to temporarily boost the number of taxis serving downtown for the duration of the project.
Jeff McGuire, Chief of the Niagara Regional Police, said the emphasis of the project is to make the downtown a safer environment, especially on weekends when students come to drink and party. The city believes a bigger taxi presence will help address this problem.
“It’s important to the Niagara Regional Police Service that people come to downtown St. Catharines and have fun and enjoy themselves safely,” said McGuire.
“We anticipate that this will help with the safe movement of those people. We will continue to work with the City of St. Catharines, businesses and local groups to try and find safe solutions to the challenge of getting the crowds home.”
Along with members of the Niagara Regional Police, City staff will also work with the NRPS Board, industry representatives from St. Catharines. The City has also created a task force to “monitor and report on the successes of initiatives meant to improve downtown after hours.”
“The Board shares the City’s commitment to transportation safety in the downtown entertainment district,” said Vaughn Stewart, the acting Board Chair. “
The Board and Niagara Regional Police Services’ Licensing Unit have an excellent relationship with the industry and look forward to working with the City and other community organizations to address this issue.”
Other efforts by the City to improve the safety of the downtown core have included improved street lighting and security cameras in select locations.